Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden: A Century Of Good Drinks And Good Times

BY JOE MARVILLI
Staff Writer

Unlike similar venues, Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden does not focus on sports, music or even specialty beers. Instead, this century-old location is dedicated to the neighborhood and has been for the entirety of its history.
Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden is the oldest beer garden in New York City. Established in 1910, it has been around for 104 years. It was founded and is still owned by the Bohemian Citizens’ Benevolent Society of Astoria. This group supports and maintains schools, dramatics, lectures and libraries for Czech and Slovak children.

The society, founded in 1892, began raising funds in 1910 for a home for the Czech people in the local community. Two adjacent lots that were part of a farm were purchased and the cornerstone of Bohemian Hall was laid on Oct. 1 that year.

Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden has been serving drinks and holding community events since it was founded in 1910. Photo by Trisha Sakhuja

Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden has been serving drinks and holding community events since it was founded in 1910. Photo by Trisha Sakhuja

The hall was built in three sections. The smaller building that now serves as the main bar and the entrance is the original hall, with the larger building and the garden being added when the society realized that more room was needed.

The outside bar and park was completed in 1919, one year before the 18th Amendment put Prohibition into effect for the next 13 years. Bohemian weathered Prohibition better than many of its fellow beer gardens, since its focus was on social activities and the community aspect, rather than the alcohol.

Bohemian also faced challenges in the early 1990s, when a lack of funds threatened to shut its doors. It took a community effort of about 100 residents donating in support of the center to get it through this tough time. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.

Nowadays, the Bohemian Beer Garden has become one of the most famous locales of western Queens, drawing New Yorkers from across the City into Astoria. Besides its long history, the site remains popular as an open and inviting community watering hole.

The bar’s tap selection ranges from standard fare like Blue Moon, Stella Artois and Sam Adams to more exotic selections like Krusovice, Leinenkugel’s and Franziskaner Weissber. In addition to the beers that are available by the glass or the pitcher, Bohemian also has a full menu that combines typical bar food with Czech specialties. Some of the favorites on the menu are potato pancakes, beef goulash with dumplings and utopenec, a cold and spicy sausage.

While it is known as a beer garden, Bohemian is still a cultural center. The Czech and Slovakian School, located in Bohemian Hall, is an educational facility that offers a tuition-free, comprehensive approach for school-aged children to learn a modern Czech and Slovak ian language. It takes place every Friday from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and is intended for children between 5 and 14 years of age.

Bohemian’s cultural calendar includes the occasional live band performance as well as Thursday night karaoke on its garden stage. On April 6, the beer garden will hold a “Vinyl Revolution Record Show” from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The market is free to enter and will feature Laura Rebel Angel spinning records all day.

Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden is located at 29-19 24th Ave., Astoria. For more information, call (718) 274-4925 or email info@bohemianhall.com. It opens at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon on Saturday and Sunday.

Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, jmarvilli@queenstribune.com, or @Joey788.